Transcript of 16th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Ms. Christina Herald, Thursday, September 4, 1997 at 5:00 pm.

Ms. Herald: Hey, Herr Doktor! Miss me?
Dr. Balis: Well hello, stranger. You look different.
Ms. Herald: See? I am capable of dressing and acting like an adult on occasion. It's not a part I relish playing, but I play it well. I suppose it's required of me, after all...the teacher, you know. Someone in the classroom has to have a grip on maturity, however tenuous.
Dr. Balis: I would hope so. How's the teaching working out?
Ms. Herald: Oh, it's turning out great. Better than I expected. It seems as though these kids might, fates forfend, actually be interested in what I'm teaching. Some of them are really good writers. No one, myself included, really enjoys teaching the rules of grammar, but I refuse to make them diagram sentences. So it's not turning out so bad. It's required by the curriculum, so I spent a few days on it. Then I said, "Now, an easier way to do this that makes a lot more sense..." and proceeded to explain it my way. The quiz results were positive enough. We'll see how the section test turns out, but I have pretty high hopes and it's only about three weeks into the semester.
Dr. Balis: I'm glad to hear it. And you seem really excited about it.
Ms. Herald: Yeah, I like my students. It was kind of a relief to get there and actually enjoy it. I was almost afraid that I'd get into my own classroom with a group of students for whom I was totally responsible for an entire year and realize that I had spent the last four and a half years of my life training for a profession that I hated. But, thankfully, that was not the case.
Dr. Balis: You seem happy with your job. But is something else wrong? You're behaving rather...
Ms. Herald: Differently? I suppose so. You see, a lot has changed in the time since I spoke to you last.
Dr. Balis: I see. Such as?
Ms. Herald: Well, let's start at the beginning, shall we? I suppose you would like to hear about my vacation to England.
Dr. Balis: Yes, I would. How were the sheep?
Ms. Herald: The sheep were fine, Doctor. They send their regards.
Dr. Balis: Ah, how nice of them.
Ms. Herald: I thought you might like that. England was a revelation. I don't think I can recall feeling so at peace and so on edge all in a single moment. I was walking in places and seeing things that some of the most important historical figures in history had walked in and had seen. I traveled through Ireland and Scotland, too--just for a couple of days, though. Most of my time was spent in London at my mother's flat. I spent a week chasing dreams I'd had since I was a child--dreams of mythic heroes with whom I always wished I could have traveled. I forgot everything back here and lived in a fantasy world where magic was real, if only for a week. Then I came back and prepared to put it all aside, at least on the surface. Underneath it all, I'm the same silly girl I always was--she just went underground.
Dr. Balis: Put it all aside? Why?
Ms. Herald: Doc, I'm twenty-three years old...a college graduate. I'm starting my first job in my chosen field and I'm doing well. I'm a grown up now, like it or not, and I have to act it, if only for the sake of society. No more ghosts in the hallway for me. It's sad the way our society kills the dreams we have or, failing that, kills the dreamer with drugs or despair. But that's the world we live in, and one person can't change the world. All my life, I believed that just one person could and that I was the person to do it. And I tried, Doc, you don't know how hard I tried!
Dr. Balis: Chris, I don't think I understand. You intend to put aside all of what you consider your childhood in one week?
Ms. Herald: I already told you, I'm not putting it aside. I'm just hiding it from prying eyes. No one but me and my computer need know about it. Well, maybe you too. Sometimes. When you don't look at me funny like that.
Dr. Balis: I'm serious.
Ms. Herald: Okay, Doc. You want serious? Look at this.
Dr. Balis: It's a pretty ring.
Ms. Herald: A pretty engagement ring. I wouldn't take it at first, you know. I told him that I didn't want to break up, but I couldn't make that kind of a commitment just yet. I had too much I wanted to do. We had a huge fight, and he accused me of living in a dream world. He said that I was frivolous and narcissistic, that I should get my high and mighty ass down out of the clouds and see the world that was passing me by in a cloud of smog and sweat. He was right, in his own little Malcolm-way. I try too hard to change things and people--Jonny, Dad, even Malcolm himself--rework them over in the image of what I consider perfection. But life isn't something that can be cleaned up and made presentable all that easily. Especially not by some bossy little snot who thinks just because her nickname is Queen of the World that she can rule everyone's lives by royal decree.
Dr. Balis: Did Malcolm say that to you?
Ms. Herald: No, Doctor. I said that to myself. I'm my own worst critic, it would seem.
Dr. Balis: I see. So when are you going to marry Malcolm?
Ms. Herald: In December.
Dr. Balis: Really? Is this what you want, Christina?
Ms. Herald: What makes you ask that, Doctor?
Dr. Balis: That look on your face. You look less like someone who's planning to marry the person that she wants to be with for the rest of her life and more like someone who's just been told the date of their execution.
Ms. Herald: Is psychic ability a prerequisite for being a shrink?
Dr. Balis: You've asked me that before, I think. No. No psychic ability needed. I know you, Chris.
Ms. Herald: Right, so you don't need psychic ability. Am I that transparent?
Dr. Balis: I'll tell you this: for an average man, I'm willing to bet, you're an extremely difficult person to get to know.
Ms. Herald: I've been told so.
Dr. Balis: If you don't want to marry him, then why did you accept the ring?
Ms. Herald: Well, I do and I don't. I like the idea of security. With Malcolm tethering me to reality, I'll be far less likely to go flying off chasing rainbows and being generally goofy...well, maybe not too much less.
Dr. Balis: I like you the way you are.
Ms. Herald: You're my shrink. You only have to deal with me for one hour out of the week. You can afford to like me when I'm goofy.
Dr. Balis: Chris, don't you see what I'm saying?
Ms. Herald: Um, not really, Doctor.
Dr. Balis: All right. If you're going to get married, do it for the right reasons. Do it because you love the person, not to anchor yourself to routine and normalcy which you're mistaking for reality.
Ms. Herald: More than anything else in this world, reality is subjective, Doc. And when someone's version of reality doesn't quite fit with everyone else's--with anyone else's--those are the people that we notice. Our poets, musicians, and madmen all have their own slant on reality. Besides, I do love Malcolm. I don't know that I would call it a grand mad passion, but I love him. I'm not a coward, Doctor. I could be great at anything I want to do, anything at all. I could be a great teacher or an even greater writer. I could even do both. Hell, maybe I will do both, who knows? But I can't go on the way that I am.
Dr. Balis: I don't understand. What is so wrong with the way that you are? You've come back to my office a stranger, Chris. If you feel you need to make a lifestyle change, then make it. But don't do something that makes you so obviously unhappy.
Ms. Herald: You're saying that I'm making a mistake.
Dr. Balis: It's considered bad form for a psychiatrist to say something like that, but quite honestly, yes. I think you are. You used to be happy and energetic, full of life. You can hardly look me in the face today.
Ms. Herald: I'm just tired...
Dr. Balis: No. You're not just tired.
Ms. Herald: No, not just tired, okay? Tired, confused, sad, bewildered, trapped. Trapped, trapped, trapped. More than anything else, that's how I feel right now.
Dr. Balis: Keep talking.
Ms. Herald: Right, right. It's all pretty strange, really. I started to feel like no one needed me anymore is what it all boils down to. Can you imagine what you would feel like, Doc, if one day it seemed like all your patients were suddenly able to function without your help? You'd be happy for them, sure, but wouldn't you feel kind of alone, kind of useless, too?
Dr. Balis: So that's what this is all about...
Ms. Herald: Yeah. I was gone for just a while and everyone seems to have worked things out. Carmichael's content; he's got a new crop of freshmen to terrorize. He's already poking around, asking the Comp 101 professors about who shows promise in his new batch. Jonny doesn't need me to protect him anymore. He turned eighteen last month. He and Greg seem more in love every day, and Dad is all sort of cool with it. Speaking of Dad, he's squared away, too. He's retiring early, around Thanksgiving probably. His successor is already picked by his own hand, and he has complete confidence in her abilities. He's proposed to Sarah, and she's considering it. He and Joanne are legally separated, and the divorce should be final rather quickly. Bessa is getting her thesis published. She has a new man, and she's probably going to be moving to Chicago. Anders is bustling with activity and completely thrilled with his new gig as an emcee for the fastest growing drag cabaret in the city. The only one who seems to still need me around is Malcolm. I haven't heard from Andrew for awhile. I suppose I'll have to deal with that as the school year progresses. But everything's resolved. All the major conflicts have gone away. Closed book, end of story. What do I do now?
Dr. Balis: Now, now, slow down. You're an active person, and a natural leader. You're also very protective and nurturing to those around you who need your help. And you're about to embark on a whole new challenge, Chris. You'll be a wonderful teacher and, I'm willing to bet, a good writer, too. You have a lot of room in your life right now, and I think you're looking for something to fill it. But this is not the answer.
Ms. Herald: Yeah. I never did deal well with empty spaces. And it seems like that's all I have--one big empty space. I tried to explain that to Malcolm when he handed me the ring. He told me to wear the ring for a week and, every time I look at it, to think how much more empty space there would be without him there. Because if I refused his proposal now, there wouldn't be another one. He got a job offer back in New York that he's going to take. He told them that he'd start in January, but he can start anytime. He wants me to move with him. We'd have the wedding here, then move after the honeymoon--there goes my job here. If I give him the ring back, he's going to leave without me. End of that story, too.
Dr. Balis: Hmm.
Ms. Herald: Yeah, isn't that cute? Why doesn't he just hit me over the head with a club and drag me off by my hair, I wonder. He even wanted me to quit smoking.
Dr. Balis: So when is the week up?
Ms. Herald: Sunday. Pbbbbbt.
Dr. Balis: Chris?
Ms. Herald: Yeah?
Dr. Balis: You sound better already.
Ms. Herald: Thank you, Doc. One raspberry and I'm cured. This could start a whole new trend--the Rocky and Bullwinkle school of psychiatric treatment.
Dr. Balis: That's good, mind if I use it sometime? So what will you do?
Ms. Herald: Not sure yet. At the very least, I'll reexamine my reasons for slipping my neck into the noose, so to speak. But as I sat here just now and heard the senseless drivel pouring out of my mouth, I realized just how bloody stupid it all sounded. My self-esteem hit the floor when I realized that no one really depended on me anymore. Malcolm insisted that he was the only one that needed me now, and how could I just throw that all away? Blah, blah, blah. But marrying him would be wrong if I didn't do it for my own reasons. And if I listened to that shit, I'd be doing it for all the wrong reasons. There's no real way I can go through with this and continue to look myself in the eye in the mirror--let alone my shrink across the desk--without thinking it through. Capisce?
Dr. Balis: Absolutely. Now, we are just about out of time. A few minutes over, actually.
Ms. Herald: Yes, sir!
Dr. Balis: Very funny. Stop saluting me.
Ms. Herald: You'd miss me if I was gone.
Dr. Balis: I thought we established that earlier.
Ms. Herald: Self-esteem problems--I have to hear it constantly. Remember? I must be indispensable.
Dr. Balis: Uh huh.
Ms. Herald: Well, you're good for the proverbial kick in the ass when I go on one of my insecure tangents. That's not all you're good for, but one of the things.
Dr. Balis: Good, glad to hear that I'm user-friendly.
Ms. Herald: I am not even going to touch that comment.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Chris. I'll see you next week.
Ms. Herald: Yes, sir. Bye bye.
Dr. Balis: I thought I told you to stop that...
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Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Christina Herald's Transcripts Transcripts of Christina Herald's Communications
Button to Christina Herald's Patient File Christina Herald's Patient File

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